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The contact centre apocalypse: New survey reveals contact centres close to breaking point


A new survey has revealed that UK contact centres are in a perilous position due to a combination of rising contact volumes and agent attrition.

26th Jul 2022
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The findings of a Censuswide survey of 1,000 industry leaders, has revealed an alarming picture of contact centres close to breaking point.

Commissioned by end-to-end contact centre testing specialist Hammer, leaders across the UK, US, and Australia were surveyed, with the findings showing that contact centres are struggling to keep pace with 'unrealistic' demands, while also failing to deliver much-needed IT innovation. 

Of the 1,000 leaders surveyed, 89% believe that their organisation has unrealistic expectations of them, and 86% do not believe that they can deliver software updates quickly enough to meet demand.

A recipe for disaster

With both chat volume (64%) and call volume (60%) on the rise for UK contact centres, it is unsurprising that 59% of respondents agreed that contact volumes are spiralling beyond their capacity to handle them.

Moreover, 65% of contact centres have seen an increase in agent attrition, 68% have reported escalated customer churn, and 61% have admitted that the frequency of outages has increased over the last 12 months.

There has also been a rise in customer frustration due to an increase in call wait times and abandoned calls. These frustrations have had a detrimental effect on frontline customer service employees, with 67% of those working in UK contact centres stating that their mental health has been negatively impacted.

So how are contact centres looking to address these issues?

Is technology the answer?

According to the survey, contact centre leaders see technology as the best way to stop the rot and bring contact centres back from the brink.

Indeed, 99% of UK contact centre leaders are planning to upgrade technology in the next 12-24 months, with outbound telephony systems (13%), chatbots (12%), email (12%), conversational AI, (12%) and web chat (11%) listed as the top five areas for technological upgrades.

However, whilst this may look good on paper, it is at odds with other survey findings which highlight that the majority of contact centres cannot keep up with the current tech upgrades and improvements they want to make, let alone introduce more.

  • 86% say they cannot deliver software upgrades quickly enough to meet the demands of the business.
  • 85% are not able to properly test upgrades and improvement projects before they go live.
  • 85% do not have enough resources in their developer team.
  • 83% say their dev ops is not agile enough.

In discussing the survey results, CEO of Hammer, John d’Anna commented: “While it’s encouraging to see so many contact centres willing to invest in new technology, the figures relating to the lack of proper testing, are concerning and highlight the imminent disasters waiting to happen. Without end-to-end testing, improvement projects will fail to deliver the anticipated improvement and much-needed ROI.”

Less robots more humans

Whilst the results of the survey do suggest that contact centre leaders see technology as the answer to their problems, they also infer that the wellbeing of their employees is a factor.

It is important to note that this is not an issue that is solely relevant to contact centres. The latest UKCSI report revealed that customer complaints were at an all time high across the board, with the struggle to balance customer experience with customer expectation since the start of the pandemic seen as a major factor.

With much of life returning to ‘normal’, it’s easy to forget that the effects of covid are still being heavily felt within the customer service sector. Agent burnout is still a major concern, with a contact centre report from the beginning of the year revealing the following:

  • 72% of customer-facing workers say they are burnt out or will be imminently.
  • 63% say their company thinks the end-customer experience is more important than their wellbeing.
  • 88% say their responsibilities have grown since the coronavirus crisis started, without pay rise or promotion.

While more sophisticated and streamlined systems and programmes will undoubtedly address some of the issues outlined in the survey, companies need to make sure that they are also providing a supportive, nurturing work environment for their employees – and be careful not to concentrate solely on technology and forget the humans that are operating it. 

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